Of all the costs inherent to a distributed AV system or fully integrated home, the rack hardware is perhaps the most scrutinized by our clients. It's not surprising – the relative cost can be a large percentage of the overall project. But it is also one investment that can significantly reduce immediate, and future, service charges. Not only does a well organized equipment area make for a smooth install process free of surprise labor overages, it also makes future service calls less time consuming.
Establishing a Standard
All of our home automation systems are built to a specific standard, and housing audio video components in a rack helps further perfect this standard. Any one of our field technicians can likely work on a well built rack with their eyes closed. They will know that network equipment, audio video receivers, amplifiers, etc., all have an assigned location from top to bottom. By knowing the precise location of AV components, and the connections between them, our technicians can troubleshoot a system problem more efficiently. Building an equipment rack to a standard also allows for a faster initial install. It makes sense because the plan has already been laid out. There is no need for the installer to decide if the cable boxes will be housed in the entertainment center or the linen closet, or if wiring needs to be pulled to the attic or the basement. When decisions are made ahead of time, and equipment consolidated in one location, our field technicians can spend less time scratching their heads, and more time building a well tuned home automation system.
Beauty In the Basement
High end audio video equipment is created by some of the best industrial designers in the world, making a well built rack look impressive, plain and simple. Comprised of sharp lines, cool lighting, and brushed steel, most audio video components are made to be displayed. When housed in a rack, top of the line gear is allowed to look it's best and perform flawlessly, and racks are an opportunity to showcase the beauty of technology while also keeping it in an out of the way location. Taking guests to a home's equipment area is often as satisfying as popping the hood of a new sports car to display its engine. Like a fine automobile, well built audio video racks can be a conversation piece, and most music/ movie lovers like to admire the look of their setup from time to time.
Braving the Unknown
Much of the equipment installed in a well built rack is preventative in nature. In order to keep an audio video system operational and well maintained, components like cooling systems, battery backups, and internet accessible power switches are a necessity.
To keep fragile electronics in good working order, all of our racks are built with airflow in mind. Entertainment centers and closets are dangerous locations to install electronic equipment because they are prone to overheating, especially when filled beyond capacity. Equipment racks however are relatively easy to cool with a simple fan system, and are designed with component spacing and venting in mind. With all other factors being equal, technology living in a rack will have a much longer lifespan than equipment stuffed in a cluttered cabinet.
Power outages are dangerous to home automation systems on two fronts. First, they can interrupt essential services like internet, phone, or security cameras. Also, when power is eventually restored, the incoming spike can damage delicate electronic components. A well built system rack always includes power management and battery backup equipment. Unfortunately this equipment is also the heaviest and most cumbersome, so storing is very inconvenient without a rack. All too often consumers will ignore the protection offered by power management simply because they have nowhere to put it. Despite spending a fortune on their AV gear, these same consumers are left wondering why the life expectancy of their technology is so short.
Finally, a home automation, or audio video system is only as good as its uptime. Sometimes system components can crash or lock up, and will be unusable until a service technician arrives on site. But if a rack is designed properly, most common problems can be addressed remotely, provided there is an available internet connection. While no customer likes encountering system problems, a simple phone call and five minute reboot is definitely preferable to a lengthy site visit and large service bill. A properly designed rack will always include the capacity to be remotely managed by its installer. How effectively that installer can solve problems remotely is also directly correlated to the initial organization and design of the rack and it's equipment. Keeping that in mind, a retrofit, or installation with scattered equipment, is much less likely to be serviced remotely than a system with a consolidated rack area equipped with internet accessible power switches.